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Autism Speaks applauds education bill enactment

December 09, 2015

UPDATE: President Obama has signed ESSA education reform bill. 

Washington, DC- Today President Obama signed S. 1177, or the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), an elementary and secondary education bill in a signing ceremony. The bill aims to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was last reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. Bipartisan leaders from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) worked together to approve the newly released language with broad support.

The bill received bipartisan support with a vote of 359-64 in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate moved quickly to approve the measure by a vote of 85-12 earlier this week.

The bill builds on a legacy of high expectations for all students and holds schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities to ensure their access to general education curriculum.

Until the most recent reauthorization of ESEA in 2001, students with disabilities were excluded from state accountability systems, inhibiting access and exposure to the general curriculum. Exclusion from the state accountability system left parents without relevant tools to monitor their child’s academic progress and allowed states to ignore their academic performance.

The new bill accommodates state and local school district flexibility while maintaining accountability requirements for improvement of “subgroups” of students, such as those in special education. The new language further requires school districts to identify and provide evidence-based improvement plans in any schools in which students are not learning. The bill also includes provisions that would expand access to early education. The final bill can be read here.

Learn more about your child’s rights to a quality education here.

Approval of the legislation comes on the heels of the 40th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when individuals with autism and their families celebrated the improvements in public education for those with developmental disabilities, but challenged Congress to go further to help all students reach their fullest potential.

The improvements to federal education policy come after the U.S. Department of Education recently announced rule changes aimed at monitoring and prioritizing the progress of students with disabilities, including those with autism.

The new rules disallow states from testing students with disabilities with alternative academic standards. Advocates point out that using alternative academic standards for students with disabilities may hinder their access to general education curriculum and graduation.  By codifying these accountability provisions, the Every Student Succeeds Act establishes expectations for academic achievement for students with disabilities.


Make your voice heard on education policy here and be sure to follow @AutismVotes on Twitter to stay informed on education policy.